I own a property management company in Wilkes-Barre, PA, ADT Property Management Company. That's quite a statement, if you consider that I never wanted to do property management. If I had known what I know now, before I took that first step down the slippery slope that's led me to where I am today, I may never have done it at all. But I did, so here I am.
I started managing properties because I had a client who bought a house and needed to rent it for a year until he moved into the area. That pretty much opened the door and before I knew it I was getting flooded with requests for my services. Of course, it took some time for me to truly understand the whole picture and I guess I'm still learning new things as I encounter situations that I never encountered before. I thought it might be helpful to highlight some of the things I've learned over the last 2 years that might help someone make the right decision before getting into the business of renting their proeprties.
My experiences don't just come from the management of clients' properties either. I have a couple of my own that have helped me to understand the dynamics of property management. I hope these things may help someone as they embark on their own journey. Before buying that first rental property, you need to consider...
It's not enough just to buy a cheap house, fix it up and rent it. There are certainly a ton of cheap listings in today's market. Just like the rest of the market, your rent rate will be determined by the location your property is in. Is it near the schools, shopping, bus routes, churches and hospitals? Those are all very important factors to consider when purchasing a property to rent. I have had plenty of outstanding properties that were in tough locations for renters, which made it even harder to rent. The longer your house sits on the rental market, the more money you lose.
Yes, I said amenities. What does your property offer that the other houses in it's market don't? The Wilkes-Barre market has seen a huge influx of investment buyers over the last two years. They all have the same plan...buy a cheap 3BR/1BA house, rehab it as cheaply as you can and put it on the market at the high end of the rent tier. That was a great plan and it worked...for a while. It wasn't long before there were 100's of the same type of houses on the rental market, all at the same time, all offering the same amenities and all at the same prices. This made it a tenant's market and they could literally choose from 4-5 houses to rent. The one that stood out the best (or offered the most amenities) was the one they chose.
Consider this carefully before ever even making the purchase. If you can't get the right rent rate, you could be stuck with an alligator. You know what that is, right? It's a property that keeps eating your profits month in and month out. If you're not careful, it could even take a bite out of you!! If your house sits for more than two months, you need to review your plan and make sure you have the property priced right. A lesson I learned over time was to be sure that the rent rate is right before I take over a property. It costs me to have that place sitting there, unrented, while I run back and forth to show it as well.
10%!!! Are you kidding me? That's the response I get sometimes when I tell someone what my fees are for my services. I've also heard the statement that I am making more money off of some of my clients properties than they are. That may very well be true, but it certainly isn't my fault. There are some rather simple formulas for figuring out what your income vs. costs will be for your property. Property Management is one of those costs you will want to consider. I have a good friend, who is also now a client, that considered my fees to be too much until she was forced into court by a tenant. After spending a lot of time and money, she now understands why it's better to have a property manager.
I have actually been able to make my clients even more money, after paying my fees each month, because of my understanding of the market. I am able to locate and place better tenants. I am able to follow up more closely when maintenance is needed. I can take better care of the tenants and a happy tenant is worth their weight in gold, believe me. I have relationships with contractors, local building code inspectors and local law enforcement, so my relationships can make the lives of my clients much easier.
In Wilkes-Barre, if you don't live within 20 miles of the city, you have to have a Property Manager registered with the city. I have seen the city actually shut down multi-unit buildings, essentially evicting all the tenants (at the owner's expense) because the owner lived out of town and didn't have a property manager. That meant large fines from the city and some very angry tenants. In addition to those requirements, in order to be a property manager in PA, you have to have at least a Real Estate salesperson's license. That pretty much narrows the field when it comes to property management.
Yes, there is a lot to consider before wading into these sometimes turbulent waters. Choose your steps wisely and, if you find yourself with a question or two, give me a call.
Until next time...